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News / Politics / Election

U.S. Supreme Court denies stay in Central WA redistricting case

By Claire Withycombe, The Seattle Times
Published: April 3, 2024, 7:58am

OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an attempt to stay a recent court decision that will alter the boundaries of several legislative districts in Central Washington in the wake of a voting-rights lawsuit.

In mid-March, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik approved a new map after ruling last year that the current map impaired the ability of Latino voters in the Yakima Valley and Pasco areas to elect their preferred candidates. A group of Latino voters had filed a lawsuit challenging the map approved by Washington’s redistricting commission in 2021, arguing the districts diluted the voting power of Latinos in the region.

Opponents had appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which denied a stay on March 22. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an attempt to stay Lasnik’s ruling.

The redrawn boundaries mean that Democrats could pick up more seats in the Legislature, where they already hold strong majorities.

Local Angle

Clark County’s legislative districts will also see some impacts from the redistricting. On the eastern edge of the 20th Legislative District, the boundary will extend south into the current 17th District boundary, past Hockinson to 99th Street. In exchange, and to keep the number of voters in each district in balance, the 17th District will extend into Klickitat County as far east as Goldendale.

Voting rights advocates and Democrats have welcomed the new map, which will be used in this year’s legislative elections, but Republicans have blasted it.

Sonni Waknin, program manager and voting rights counsel at the UCLA Voting Rights Project, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Latino voters, said in a statement that “the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that Washington State will use a lawful map for the next general election.”

“This decision guarantees that all voters can participate, assured their votes count on a map adhering to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” Waknin said.

On Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, said in a statement that the new map was “racially discriminatory.”

“All this partisan gerrymandered map does is help Democrats to a greater share of political power,” Braun said.